By Åse Anderson
Two remarkable blue gemstones helped propel Christie's jewellery auction sales to a record-breaking total of more than $754 million. The Winston Blue, a blue diamond that was sold to Harry Winston for almost $23.8 million at Christie's Geneva last May, was the auction house's top jewel for 2014. Weighing in at 13.22ct, the flawless, Fancy Vivid blue diamond fetched a staggering $1.79 million per carat.
Another blue beauty, the 392.52ct Blue Belle of Asia, became the most valuable sapphire ever sold at auction when it went under the hammer for $17.3 million in November last year. It was sold at Christie's Geneva Magnificent Jewels auction, where other highlights included a JAR bangle that beat its pre-sale estimate more than tenfold.
The Geneva branch was the star performer of all the auction houses' salerooms, which also include London, New York, Paris and Dubai, selling no fewer than six of the year's top 10 pieces. Unsurprisingly, apart from the Blue Belle of Asia, the top 10 is comprised entirely of diamonds, including a Belle Epoque diamond brooch by Cartier that sold for $17.58 million, the second highest price of 2014, and a pair of coloured diamond ear pendants that fetched a final price of $15.82 million.
Sales from important private collections also soared in 2014 with the top three auctions - two of them held in Geneva - reaching a combined total of more than $48 million. As well as recording a year-on-year increase of 11%, Christie's jewellery department broke nine world auction records and sold seven jewels for more than $10 million, and 149 jewels for more than $1 million.
Sotheby's can also look back on a record-breaking 12 months with jewellery auction sales reaching $603 million, the highest total in the auction house's history. More than 3,900 lots were sold, attracting 2,400 bids from 74 different countries. Following the sale of the Zoe blue diamond for $32.6 million and the Graff Vivid Yellow diamond for $16.3 million, Sotheby's now holds the world auction records for four of the most sought-after diamond colours: white, pink, blue and yellow.
Another memorable jewel was the Hutton-Mdivani jadeite necklace, which fetched $27.4 million, the second highest auction price for any jewel, smashing the record for any jadeite or non-diamond jewel. Demand for top-quality coloured gemstones saw no sign of abating and, last year, the Graff Ruby beat the record for any ruby sold at auction, while a Kashmir sapphire also sold for a record-breaking sum.
Due to their increased rarity and timeless elegance, natural pearls were also sought after, with one diamond and natural pearl necklace selling for more than eight times its estimate.
One factor that is arguably helping drive auction prices up is the fact that prospective buyers can now bid in person, over the phone, or online, with both Christie's and Sotheby's both seeing a sharp increase in virtual bidders. Christie's sold more than 430 jewels online last year, while at Sotheby's more than 1,000 lots attracted bids via the internet.
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